Is Spiritualism a Fraud?

The Medium Exposed? Or, A Modern Spiritualistic Seance
R: J.H. Martin. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works.  UK 1906

“This ingenious six-minute saga sees a gathering of affluent suburban Spiritualists almost duped by a con artist whose elaborate ‘séance’ goes awry. While his fright-wigged assistant escapes, the phoney medium is manhandled into a trunk, thrown down a hill and paraded along the local high street as a warning to others: woe betide those who feign the power to contact departed loved ones. The RW Paul company was a pioneer of the early ‘trick film’; the neat tricks seen here include the lowering of the light and the disembodied ghost.”
BFI Player

“Otherwise known as ‘Is Spiritualism a Fraud?’, the 1906 short film is a fantastic example of how spirit contact, or rather, perceived spirit contact, has been a source of entertainment and debate since its inception nearly 200 years ago. (…) The elaborate séance tricks of the medium were commonplace in the 19thcentury whereby the realm of the dark séance curated prime opportunities for trickery and misdirection; all thanks to a few strings, a stooge and a pot of glow-in-the-dark paint. By the turn of the century, such overblown ‘performance’ elements of manifestation mediumship and dark seances were already rather old hat, with reports of clear fraudulent practise commonplace in the spiritualist press. This general familiarity with the presence of spiritualism and spiritualist groups in society was prime territory for the film’s director who had professionally worked as a stage magician. Subsequently, he would have known how many mediumistic tricks were conducted and may have indeed felt a little rivalry with the profession that attributed mysticism to their own inventions. Short films such as these were forerunners to the world of visual effects and were known as ‘trick’ films. Directed by trick-film specialist Walter R. Booth (although also credited to J. H. Martin), it was one of the last films made in collaboration with R.W. Paul. Unlike their other films, of which there are many, the mechanisms by which their tricks operated are directly shown to the audience – in this instance, for comedic, not just dramatic effect.”
Kate Cherrell
Burials & Beyond